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Five Myths You’ll Hear This Week at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

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the only thing that matters. The FDA saw an uptick in new drug approvals in 2011, but that could just be because it saw much better applications for more innovative drugs than it had in past years. My bet is that the FDA approval rate drops again in 2012. “I always remind people, the easiest way to lose a civil service job at the FDA is to push the approval of something that is later found out to have a problem,” says Carl Weissman, the CEO of Accelerator, a biotech startup incubator in Seattle.

4. “The mood is upbeat.” Every year, JP Morgan attendees are always asking each other “how’s the mood?” among the other people they’ve been meeting at the conference. This always struck me as a silly question, because people are always in a good mood when they get to connect with friends. Even if they aren’t in a good mood, they’re going to do their best to project as much confidence as possible, because if you aren’t self-confident, why would anybody else believe in you? Plus, the whole question is moot, because whatever the mood is at JP Morgan in January, it will be long forgotten by February. As Daphne Zohar, the managing partner of Puretech Ventures in Boston puts it, “I think people are usually in a good mood that week because they’re happy to be in SF in the sun, talking about deals, schmoozing with their friends and colleagues, and going to 5-10 cocktail parties each night.”

5. “We’re raising another venture fund in 2012.” Yeah, you and everybody and their brother (and this being the healthcare venture business, most of the partners are dudes) are TRYING to raise a new fund. This is truly the year when most of the pre-downturn 2007 and 2008-vintage venture capital funds are going to run out of money. Everybody is making a stampede to their limited partners’ offices, begging for more money to keep betting on biotech startups. At least one-third to one-half of these funds will fail to raise more money in 2012, because they don’t have good enough returns to keep going. And as these firms slowly go out of business, you’re going to see some truly painful spin and reality-distortion coming from Sand Hill Road. What it means is we’re going to see fewer new startups founded with the right stuff to get them on stage at the JP Morgan conference in 2015, 2016, or 2017. And that’s the big question about the innovation ecosystem that everyone at this conference ought to be thinking about.

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  • So pessimistic Luke! You make some good points (questioning the motivations of the people you meet). Maybe it’s time to do an article on what’s going well in biotech?


  • Havelock

    Your comments are refreshing in their grimness. I am so damned tired of the happy talk as I watch my industry stagger and stumble and diminish- Meanwhile the FDA is chock-a-block full if “incentives” and “improvements”, clubs and committees, and the industry press writes as though this is perpetually a bright, hopeful new world of collaboration, innovation etc.
    Well, I’ve watched the US-based industry over the last 20 years and it’s a slo-mo train-wreck people.
    Plus, your jobs are going overseas, period.